WHITE AND OFF-WHITE
IF you were to take the entire population of Great Britain, men,
women, arxd children, and dump them down in the middle of
India, they would still be outnumbered nine to one.
That is a graphic illustration of perhaps the most singular
feature of British rule, the fact that it is the rule of a mere handful.
In peace time (apart from the tiny standing army, which was
only just adequate to perform essential police services) the ratio
was about 10 thousand British subject to 40 million Indians.
The phrase * Quit India" makes one think of a mass exodus, a
;>ort of transfer of population, spread over many months and
involving an immense disruption of transport. Actually* it could
all be accomplished over a week-end, and every man,, woman, and
i child could be removed from the country in a single convoy of
Never wp.s so much done for so many by so few. The wordw done"
is substituted for the word "owed" because it is the purpose of this
chapter to assess the British as frankly as we have assessed the
Indians, to inquire what sort of people they really are and how
far they are worthy of their responsibilities.
Those ancient figures of comedy—the pukka sahib and his
memsahib—do they really exist ? Do they yell for chota pegs at
sundown, in the manner of E. M. For&ter ? Do they 'go out in the
midday sun/ in the manner of Noel Coward ? Do they indulge in
illicit passions against a background of tamarind and sandalwood,
in the manner of Somerset Maugham ?
The answer to these questions, like the answers to most of the
questions in life, is ' Yes and No/
There are, of course, some quite frightful people, particularly in
the female line, vulgar, sex-ridden women who spend most of
»Jheir lives in the long bar of the hotels, trying to look like ladies
and cocottes at the same time, without any noticeable success iii
cither direction. They are petulant and domineering, and com-